Histories: Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:
"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":
Polish and Bohemian Settlers
-As transcribed from pages 150 - 152
It is impossible to obtain the exact date of the day, or even month of the year, when the first Polish or Bohemian people came to this county, for the reason that there cannot be found anyone that kept any kind of data, and there are only three left in this county of the very first ones that came here - two men and one woman. Those that are alive are all past the age of eighty and their memory is beginning to fail noticeably, and what information I was able to gather is such as these people were able to give me from recollection only, except in one instance, that of the woman I just mentioned. She fixes the dates of their arrival by the age of one of her daughters. She has the names of all her children and the date on which they were born written down on the inside cover of a prayer book, and she seems to be sure that the age of the girl I mentioned was three weeks.
It seems that the Polish and one Bohemian family settled in two localities in this county at about the same time, and as near as I have been able to learn, they did not know of the existence of each other at the time, nor for a good many years after - the length of time no one seems to be able to tell.
During the winter of 1862 and 1863, there came to what is now known as Pine Creek, in the town of Dodge, several Polish families, as follows: Paul Lessman, Paul Libera, Mike Lessman, Frank Weyer, Joseph Lubinski, Joseph Wnuk, and some others whose names I did not get. Of these, all but Paul Libera are now dead. With them came one Bohemian family, that of Math Brom. He is still living, although past eighty years of age and quite feeble. All of these people came from the city of Winona, Minnesota.
You notice that there are several families that came at the same time and they settled in close proximity and formed a colony of their own. They claim the distinction of having the second oldest colony in Wisconsin, one in Polonia, Wisconsin, being older, and they claim their colony as the third oldest in the United States, one in St. Mary's, Texas, being first.
The other settlement that took place, which I mentioned before, was in the Town of Arcadia, what is now known as North Creek, and in what is now known as the Town of Burnside.
Here is the history of the settlement in the Town of Arcadia and Burnside as was told to me by the lone survivor, Mrs. Albert Bautch, Sr. The lady is also past the age of eighty, and although her memory is failing, and failing noticeably, yet after a little conversation with her she recalled quite vividly some of the hardships of pioneer life, and recalled a good deal of its history.
She told me that her daughter Johanna was three weeks old when they came to this county, and, from the entry on the inside of the cover of the prayer book I mentioned before showed by her to me, it appears that the girl was born on March 19, 1863.
With Mr. Bautch and his family came his brother Lawrence and his family, and Peter Sura and his family. those three families came together from New Lisbon, Wisconsin, where they had lived seven years prior to their coming to this county. Albert Bautch, Sr., settled with his family in the town of Arcadia, what is now known as North Creek, and Lawrence Bautch and Peter Sura settled with their families in what is now known as the Town of Burnside. As near as she could remember, no other Polish or Bohemian families came over to this county, to her knowledge, until about two years later, when several families came over from the State of Ohio.
All those speaking the Polish language settled in the different localities I have mentioned, and came originally from the German Empire, what was formerly Poland. They all came from agricultural districts and quickly adapted themselves to this country. They proved themselves to be sturdy, hard-working and thrifty fellows, and they have greatly assisted in improving the localities in the colonies that they settled in, and the great majority of them have accumulated considerable property.
You may have wondered why I speak of the Polish people and do not have much to say about the Bohemian race. This is the reason. There are now, as near as I have been able to learn, only about a dozen Bohemian families in this county, and those, particularly the younger generation, after living among the Polish people and associating with them, have all, without any exception, learned to talk, read and write the Polish language. They belong to and attend the same church, send their children to the same school, and to all intents and purposes have practically become Polish themselves.
They have in this county four Polish churches, four Polish parochial schools. The combined wealth of their churches, church furnishings, school buildings, real estate, and other buildings belonging to said churches is estimated at about $200,000.00. The largest church is located at Independence, the largest colony of Polish is in this vicinity of Independence, and the total number of all Polish people in this county is about 3,700.
The principal business of the Polish and Bohemian people is farming. There are a few engaged in mercantile affairs, but only a few. The great majority of them, especially the early settlers, were accustomed to farming, and being poor, came here looking for an opportunity to better their conditions, jumped at the opportunity this country offered them in the shape of homesteads, and went to farming as best they knew how.
Some strong men were found among the early settlers. For example, take Math Brom, the sole survivor of the Bohemian early settlers, a giant in stature, a pleasant, lovable fellow to meet, well balanced intellectually, of sturdy character, honest and upright in all his dealings, a true and loving husband and father, a true man, and respected by all who know him.
Another striking character was Albert Bautch, Sr., a big man in stature, a kind, loving husband, father and neighbor, a man who was absolutely true to the principles of American citizenship, a hard worker. He rapidly accumulated considerable property - a big-hearted fellow who was always ready to advise and assist his fellowmen in so far as was in his power to do so.
There were other of the early settlers who possessed strong characteristics and who became prominent in developing this county, but time limit does not permit me to dwell on the individual cases. It stands as the undisputed fact that the Polish and Bohemian people of this county have prove themselves to be worthy men and women, have done their share in the development of this county, have taken pride in and have learned to love this country, and although a great many, especially the younger generation, some years ago went West seeking to better their condition and find cheaper lands, yet as they become older you will find, by going back with me to some of their localities, that after a number of years of absence and after accumulating some property, they come back and settle in Trempealeau County in their declining days. Only the other day I met one who is not very old yet who has returned from the Dakotas and bought a farm in this county, and intends to live here permanently. I asked him: "What is the matter? Why did you come back?" "Ah," he said, "this is where I was born. I love those trees and those hills, and I wish to spend the rest of my life here and be buried here."
Although they, the early settlers, mostly all came from the German Empire, they came from different provinces. Those living near Pine Creek came mostly from the Province of Posen and Pomerania, and those near Arcadia and Burnside came from the Province of Silesia. They all speak the Polish language, but the dialect is decidedly different. The great majority of them are of the Catholic faith. One of the strong characteristics of the race is they are cheerful givers to churches. Another is that they are hard losers and do not readily forget when some harm has been done them, and they frequently carry their animosities to their death bed. One other prominent characteristic they possess, and that is dancing. Not only the young, but in a great many instances men and women past middle age, derive a great deal of pleasure and enjoyment out of dancing.
(Written at Independence, November 12, 1912, by John F. Kulig.)
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